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Archive for August, 2008

Shad: The Old Prince Still Lives at Home

Thanks to Andre for turning me on to this.

Google Maps + Snake, together at last!

Just saw this over at The Global Couch. This is The Last Guy, which is now available on PSN according to Joystiq. The Last Guy is 15 stages of zombie-dodging gameplay that take place in cities across the globe, which use aerial photography as “levels”. Kinda reminds me of the way Charles Cumming used Google Maps to remix The 21 Steps in the We Tell Stories project we did for Penguin. The future of multimedia hacking is bright. Looking forward to Halo meets Google Earth.

Steve Powers Waterboard Thrill Ride

Mark Kotlinski and John Carluccio’s latest piece for Current is on Steve ‘ESPO’ Powers awesome installation at Coney Island, the Waterboard Thrill Ride. This pushes so many buttons for me – it’s art, it’s graffiti, it’s advertising, copyright infringement (I’m assuming SpongeBob’s people didn’t ok this), but most of all it’s a great way to engage people. I love the family at the end – for a second I thought thy were dead serious about how awesome they thought waterboarding was.

The only thing about the ride I thought was missing is a call to action – and I haven’t seen the installation in person so maybe there is one – but it seems like a waste to make a point in such a hard hitting way and then not provide some way for people to find out more, or take action in the moment when they might be motivated to do so. Maybe there’s an oppurtunity for someone else to do this – If I were Amnesty International, I’d get a street sales teams down to Coney Island sharpish.

Advertising becomes a conversation

The video below was posted to Youtube. Someone named Levinator25 found a glitch in EA’s new golf game, Tiger Woods 08. Over 100,000 Tiger Woods fans watch it.

A few days later EA and Tiger Woods post the following response on YouTube:

More than 600,000 Tiger Woods fans watched this, and now myself and a ton of other people are writing about it. That’s how to talk to an audience who can and will talk back to you.

DJ Karizma in NYC

Baltimore’s DJ Karizma is playing at Cielo on Friday night, if you live anywhere near New York City and are the least bit interested in electronic music, you should go see him. Karizma has long been one of my favourite producers and DJs, the soulful house and garage he has put out over the years with DJ Spen under their Basement Boys alias is some of the finest music to emerge from the genre. But in more recent times, Karizma’s harder-edged solo productions have been making waves across the pond, shaping and informing the new strain of funky house music that’s been quietly evolving on the London pirate stations, and has now all but replaced the grime scene as the music du jour in the capital.

Karizma’s music is rugged and stripped down, yet hauntingly soulful (the influence of J Dilla’s work is clear and present). This year and last, tracks like ‘33rd Street Anthem‘ and ‘Twyst This’ (the track in the video above) have been hitting hard on the pirates, while leading lights in the London scene such as Rinse FM‘s DJ Perempay cite Karizma as a huge influence on their work. Tickets for Playtime with Karizma are $10 beforehand or $20 on the door. Check him out if you’re nearby, he’s an incredible DJ.

Apple and Sony working on wearable computing

Wearable computing

Picture via PSFK

Augmented reality, the internet of things or whatever you want to call the pleasure of having a google toolbar installed directly on your eyeball, just got a step closer according to the rumor mill. The Distorted Loop blog points to the latest report from Research and Markets, which alleges that “Sony and Apple are developing the next generation personal viewer, the navigation/video sunglasses. These products will offer navigation features in full see-through mode as well as video viewing with a clip-on to block the background. We expect that clip-ons will be available to provide both see-periphery views of the environment, as well as full blocking of the environment to enable video immersion when desired. This new versatile product generation will further accelerate acceptance and sales of personal viewers.”

I’m obsessed with this stuff, and the parallels between this technology and the way graffiti (especially tagging) works. The above glasses are cool (although not sure where the image came from, doubt it’s from apple), but who wants to look like Dog The Bounty Hunter. This technology is going to get really interesting when computing makes the jump to the contact lens…

Cory Doctorow meets DJ Spooky

doctorow spooky

This benefit for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund looks like fun. Two of my favourite creatives collaborating this Thursday:

On August 21, Cory Doctorow, award-winning author and co-editor of the popular blog Boing Boing and experimental writer / artist / musician Paul Miller, a.k.a. D.J. Spooky That Subliminal Kid team up for a multimedia speaking event benefiting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Following their respective presentations, Doctorow and DJ Spooky will take the stage together for an open forum discussion about their work and the futurepresent each eloquently addresses across different media.

Cory Doctorow will read and discuss the issues behind his bestselling young adult novel, Little Brother. Addressing internet and government security, censorship, and civil liberties in a post-9/11 near-future atmosphere, Little Brother tackles timely issues while telling a story that’s smart, funny, and jam-packed-with-pop culture nuggets. Doctorow “hopes it’ll inspire you to use technology to make yourself more free.” Doctorow is the former European Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group that works to keep cyberspace free. IDW recently published Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now a collection of comics based on his cyberpunkiest Sci-fi short stories.

DJ Spooky joins Doctorow to present concepts from Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture, his new book / literary mixtape collecting writing by artists and thinkers including Brian Eno, Jonathan Lethem, Saul Williams, Steve Reich, Moby, Chuck D, and more.

Negotiating with terrorists


Talking to people works. People have always been able to influence people who seem beyond influence. The Northern Island ceasefire only happened when the British government began talking to the IRA behind closed doors, which would have outraged the British public had they known. The U.S. government is currently talking to Iran despite this being a deeply unpopular decision. Governments talk to their enemies even when people don’t think they should, because it is often the only way to get real results. Companies should talk to pirates for the same reason.

An independent game developer named Cliff Harris from Positech games just proved this. He’s been fighting pirates his entire career, as most game developers have, but he decided to give diplomacy a try, asking pirates to tell him why they were stealing his games. The question migrated from his blog to Slashdot to Arstechnica to Digg and around the world, and the responses from pirates began to pour in.

His post on the results is fascinating. Some highlights:

“A LOT of people cited the cost of games as a major reason for pirating. Many were kids with no cash and lots of time to play games, but many were not. I got a lot of peoples life stories, and a ton of them were my age. Even those who didn’t cite cost as their main reason almost always mentioned it at some stage. A lot of anger was directed at the retail $60 games, and console games. People in Australia were especially annoyed about higher prices there. My games were $19-23, but for a lot of people, it was claimed this was far too high. People talked a lot about impulse buying games if they were much cheaper.”

“People don’t like DRM, we knew that, but the extent to which DRM is turning away people who have no other complaints is possibly misunderstood. If you wanted to change ONE thing to get more pirates to buy games, scrapping DRM is it. These gamers are the low hanging fruit of this whole debate.”

“Maybe 5% of the total … basically said “I do it because I like free stuff and won’t get caught. I’d do the same with anything if I knew I’d get away with it.” This is depressing, but thankfully a small minority. I also got the occasional bit of abuse and sarcasm from hardcore pirates who have decided I am their enemy. Who would have thought that would happen? They give the other 99% of pirates a bad name, and are the reason people don’t listen to pirates.”

(For what it’s worth Cliff, those same 1% of pirates decided I was the enemy too. But trying to tell hardcore pirates who see this whole thing as a movement that we need to legitimize it is like telling a punk in the 1970s we need to find a way to sell Ramones T-shirts in every mall in America.)

What did Cliff learn from this? An awful lot it turns out. As a result of this experiment he’s removing DRM from all his games.

“I only used DRM for one game (Democracy 2) and it’s trivial. It’s a one-time only internet code lookup for the full version. I’ve read enough otherwise honest people complain about DRM to see that its probably hurting more than it help’s. I had planned on using the same system for Kudos 2, but I’ve changed my mind on that. I have also removed it from Democracy 2 today. I now use no DRM at all.”

He’s also making demos better, lowering prices on older games, improving the quality of new ones and making it easier to by all of them online. He says “I’ve gone from being demoralized by pirates to actually inspired by them, and I’m working harder than ever before on making my games fun and polished.”

Other companies can learn from Cliff’s experiment. Give peace a chance.

Pirates (+ a new top secret project) at Pop!Tech

The Virtuous Circle

Blogging has suffered these last few weeks, between a family vacation in Cape Cod and having to put some serious time into several top secret projects, one of which I’m hoping to unveil at this year’s Pop!Tech. Pop!Tech is one of the coolest and most highly regarded innovation summits in the world, this year’s line up is looking great, with guest speakers including Malcolm Gladwell (his new book looks awesome) and Clay Shirky (his recent book is awesome). This year Pop!Tech is centered around the idea of scarcity and abundance, so it’s perfect for pirates, but I’ve also been working on a new book idea with a friend of mine which fits this theme, that I’m going to be talking about publicly for the first time. Deets from the PR blurb below…

Taking place October 22 – 25 in the seaside village of Camden, Maine, this year’s event will chart the core scarcities humans and organizations will encounter this century – and how a wealth of new innovations, bottom-up approaches to collaboration and insights into collective wisdom might hold the keys to addressing the challenges that lie ahead. Now in its 12th year, the Pop!Tech conference is a remarkable gathering of more than 600 thought leaders, influencers and social change agents – from the worlds of science, technology, business, social innovation, the arts, philanthropy and more – which each fall explores the new ideas, technologies and forces of change shaping our future.

Pop!Tech ’08 will focus on the rapidly-changing 21st century dynamics of systems based on scarcity and abundance. Many different domains will be explored, from the social web to population growth and energy consumption, from truly sustainable business models to politics and peacemaking. Every topic will be examined through an array of lenses – including the new ethics, economic realities, risks and possibilities in a world defined by dramatic scarcities and abundances.

For those who can’t make it to Camden to experience Pop!Tech in person, Yahoo! will once again live stream the event in its entirety, free of charge, from October 23 – 25. At home viewers will also have the opportunity to submit questions to presenters and participants in real-time via questions@poptech.org.

Official “Pop!Tech 2008: Scarcity and Abundance” sponsors include Yahoo!, Lexus, American Express, the National Geographic Society, Steelcase, Nokia Siemens Networks, Canaan Partners and frog design. Additional Pop!Tech ‘08 speakers, performers, sponsors and program details will be unveiled in the weeks ahead. Registration details are available here: https://www.poptech.org/registration/

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